I guess my Monday deadline somehow morphed into Thursday….
Hello, readers. Guess what? I read some books! And I have opinions about them! Shocker, I know. Also, I totally lied with half those covers I posted last week. Sorry about that.
I’m sad. :(
I’m sad because I really want to like this title. I really, really do. But it’s so … it’s so … I don’t know how to explain why it isn’t working for me. I guess, when it comes down to it, honestly … it doesn’t feel like Barbara. It just doesn’t feel like her to me. This new role of hers, it’s so … “forced” is the best word I can think of to describe it. It’s not Barbara—not the one I know—and that’s kind of shocking considering that Barbara Gordon is Gail Simone’s bread and butter. If anyone at all understands that character, it’s Gail—they’re practically interchangeable. Yet, as much as I want this to succeed, it just isn’t firing for me.
I wish I could explain it better … it’s just not right. It doesn’t feel right. And the writing style … there’s so much narration. That worked in Gail’s Birds of Prey when you needed the POVs of several characters, but it’s not clicking here. There’s too much of it; there’s too much telling and not enough showing. It’s so flat, and I … I don’t know how much more of this I can back. And that makes me so, so sad.
You know what else? I have read this story before. I think that’s what’s really bothering me more than anything here, is that it still feels like we’re going backwards. Which, we are—literally, we’re dialing back the clock in terms of character ages and whatnot, but I also mean to say that we’re going backwards allegorically. The stories and the progressions of these characters have taken giant steps downward. This idea of a character called Batgirl finding her footing—I have read this before. I read it in Bryan Q. Miller’s Batgirl run, and I even read it in Chuck Dixon’s Batgirl: Year One. Why am I reading it again? I’m not getting anything different this time, not one bit. Barbara healing and regaining use of her legs is only influencing this story on a very minor level—it isn’t enough to make these issues feel fresh or different. This issue was all about reuniting Batgirl and Nightwing. I should have been moved by it, but I wasn’t. Not even close. I put this book down, blinked a few times, and wondered what was wrong with me for leaving it feeling absolutely nothing.
So … what does one do in this situation? Do I keep reading this in the hope that once the groundwork is laid and some of the setup “fluff” is out of the way, I might have a more interesting story? Might I feel more for this character by issue #13, as opposed to issue #3, and is it even fair to have to wait that long? Ardian Syaf’s artwork has been great. Other than that, I haven’t got much. A part of me doesn’t want to give up on the title, because I do love Barbara and this is apparently the only Barbara that I’m going to get for the foreseeable future. I also have a certain level of faith and respect for Simone, and I want to be able to lean on that. But with every issue of this so far, I’ve only left feeling disappointment. And I never thought I’d say that.
…And with that, an interesting idea turns into utter horse poop, as Nick Spencer fills this issue with preachy drivel and a needlessly despicable downturn that I guess is meant to be humor. Biggest waste of $3.50. To say I was mortified while reading this on the train is a massive understatement. And to top things off, I read the solicit for #4 to find it isn’t even due on the shelves until April. Buhbye; I’m OUT.
I was a little worried when this was first solicited, because with a title like “Not a Hero,” my immediate thoughts were that they were turning Magneto into a villain again. That would be the worst thing you could do to the character in my opinion, and just as bad a regression as Barbara Gordon re-donning the Bat cowl. Magneto has grown by leaps and bounds in the last few years, and I’ve always enjoyed him as a villain, but I find I love him even more on the side of the angels. His presence is still so very grey—he’s so ambiguous, and in the hands of a writer who knows how to use it, that’s an invaluable quality. And so I shook my fist at the sky for a bit at the thought that this wonderful drama might be taken away for something as utterly boring as Magneto turning “bad” again. Happily, upon reading this issue, I find that this is not the case. Not yet, anyway.
Our introduction to this story centers around what is something of a storytelling cliché—Magneto is being framed for murder. Exciting, right? Bet you’ve never read anything like that before. It’s okay, though, because there are things here that make up for the questionable originality, and by the end of issue one, we can see that ultimately the story is going to deal with much more than who’s framing Magneto. I have to hand it to Skottie Young—everyone knows him for his great artistic talents, but he’s making a transition to writing here, and he’s not doing a bad job of it at all. It most certainly beats out a majority of the crap you see on the Marvel shelves these days, and rather easily at that. Young has a good handle on the characters in issue one, particularly in a scene that involves Captain America and Iron Man calling out Cyclops and Mags to get their act together. The cliffhanger reveal at the end—I really should have seen it coming. I can’t believe I didn’t. It’s some good stuff.
And Clay Mann on art duties … wow. What can I possibly say to do this guy justice? In a short couple of years, he’s hands-down become one of my favorites, and every book he’s on makes me drool a little bit. He’s wonderful. He’s coming to Boston Comic Con next year, and I am getting a sketch from him if I have to wait in line all weekend. Outstanding.
Did this book blow my mind? No, but it did some things well, did other things great, and was all around an enjoyable read. I wasn’t asking for much more than that.
More happiness! Have you seen this little bit of WIN called Princeless #1? Well if you haven’t, then you’re sorely missing out.
It’s soooooo great. It’s so great. I remember reading about this on the internet somewhere and I wasn’t really planning on checking it out, but then I found it on the shelf and read the first three pages and was like OH MY GOD, THIS IS SO WONDERFUL. Three pages—that’s all it took. And, you know, that’s kind of a big deal in a situation where you’re paying four bucks for a book when you weren’t anticipating having the expense at all. But this was so worth it, and I absolutely can’t wait to have the next issue in my hands.
This is a story about a princess named Adrienne who grows up being read stories about other princesses who get locked up in towers and have to be rescued by handsome princes who slay dragons and ultimately win the princesses’ hearts. Adrienne is baffled and outraged by this idea, criticizing and belittling the stories, and makes her mother promise her not to lock her up in a tower, only … of course you know that’s exactly what happens, right? The resulting scenario is nothing short of hilarious, adorable, brave, and pretty much unlike anything else on the comic racks right now. Whitley’s writing is beyond clever, and I found myself laughing at something on every page of the book. It’s smart enough for adults to enjoy, yet still written with a young audience in mind. This is exactly the type of thing you should be giving to the little girls in your life. Introduce them to comics now, with this. And actually, I take that back—it isn’t just for little girls; not even close. Adrienne is not the only character in this book—don’t let the “princess” thing fool you. Boys will enjoy this as well, and I encourage you to pick it up to find out why.
If I could get you to read one book and only one book this week, I would give you Princeless #1, and I wouldn’t even blink.
Since the debut of this title, I’ve had nothing but praise for Uncanny X-Force and Rick Remender. That hasn’t changed yet, and I don’t see it on horizon any time soon. Just when I think the story has reached a plateau and couldn’t possibly get any better, another issue comes out and BAM—I’m smacked in the face with the awesome.
The problem with loving a book this much is that it makes it insanely difficult to review. When you have no criticisms, there isn’t much left to say beyond shameless, unabashed gushing. And you have to admit, that’s kind of boring to read.
But I literally have nothing bad to say. There is nothing I would change about this book—not a thing. Not the writing, not the pencils, not the pacing, not the colors. Well … I suppose I might change the price … and maybe I’d make it ship twice a month, because I can’t get enough of it. But that’s all. Not much to ask.
If you’ve been subbing to this title, you know that Remender has been building up the Dark Angel Saga for quite some time—since day one, in fact. It’s some of the most well-timed and patient writing I’ve seen in recent memory. The thing I love about this book is that when I pick up an issue, I can tell that Remender has taken his time with it. He isn’t writing with collected editions in mind or decompressing the story, as one might accuse of Bendis’ Avengers titles. No; there’s a level of thought and care and precision to what Remender does, and it comes through in his scenes and character interplay. It’s harmonious. It’s a melody to which I never want to stop listening. If even a quarter of the other books Marvel puts out demonstrated this much attention to their craft, I’d be a much happier comics reader.
Jerome Opeña on art is no different. You look at these pages, and you know instantly that these babies were not rushed to meet looming deadlines. Opeña is careful, crafty, and deliberate, and the results are a joy.
On the surface, this is a black ops book. It’s assassinations and unspeakable deeds; it’s an X-Men book that’s not very X-Men-like. But read deeper, and you know these characters are about much more than that. This isn’t just about taking out threats before they become threats; this is a story of addiction, inferiority, self-worth and self-hate, fear and perceived altruism … and so much more. But Remender lets you figure that out for yourself; it’s underlying, and he doesn’t beat you over the head with it. I love that. The mark of a good writer.
Big changes are coming up for this team, and I can’t wait to find out what Remender has planned for the next year of this book. Best one on the X-shelf.
I hope everyone kept safe during Snowtober and that everyone has their power back. We’re kicking things off early, huh, New England? Good thing I have a gigantic threatening stack of reading to do while stuck indoors.
I have a triple-sectioned post for you this week. I haven’t done a pull list in a while, so let’s start with that. Then I’m going to talk about something else for a little bit, and then I’m going to do some reviews. But first, I just wanted to say this: thanks for reading. You, right there, staring at your monitor. Thank you for taking the time to click into this blog and follow my bizarre little posts every week. It’s nice to know people are continually reading this week after week, so despite my crippling self-doubt, I guess I must be doing something right. You all make my heart all warm and fuzzy inside, and when I close my eyes, I see rainbows and unicorns…
Uh … I mean. Yeah, whatever. Cool. Thanks for the hits.
… PULL LIST!
Action Comics #3 – I haven’t gotten to issue two of this yet. Falling behind….
Animal Man #3 – See above. Sadness.
Swamp Thing #3 – Funny enough, I did read issue two, and as much as I was all over issue one, the story’s feeling a bit lackluster now. I still dig Yanick Paquette and Scott Snyder like nobody’s business—it’s not necessarily the creators’ fault—I think it’s just that maybe I’m not as into Swamp Thing as I thought I could be. Eehhhh … I don’t know. Should I stick around? Convince me.
Infinite Vacation #3 – WWWWHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAA???!! Is this … do my eyes deceive me? Is this REALLY, FINALLY out?! Do I want to support this book after its RIDICULOUS lateness? Tell you what, issue three—I’ll give you a go. But this is your last chance. Get your act together, or you’re off the list for good.
Fear Itself #7.1 – I don’t … what? I don’t understand what’s happening anymore. WHAT is with all of this “point one” garbage? What is this all about? Why is this still going on? Geez. I genuinely do not understand the thinking behind this wacko numbering. Why is it not Fear Itself #8? Why are we … God. Also—and I almost can’t bear to address it, but I’m going to—there’s a new title spinning out of Fear Itself. Want to know what it is? … Are you sure? Be warned, this is one gigantic SPOILER.
Fear Itself Fearless #2 – Wait, hang on. Why is this on my pull list? I don’t know what this is.
Mystic #4 – Awww, Mystic. I’m gonna miss you. I’m glad I get to look forward to you this week. Thank you for giving me some fun and some magic in a pull list that’s otherwise mostly full of failure.
Shame Itself #1 – So I read the page previews of this on CBR and laughed so hard at the re-cap page. This is definitely coming home with me. Glad to see Marvel poking some fun at themselves.
Uncanny X-Men #1 – Still haven’t finished reading Schism yet. Should I even bother? It’s gotten some fairly bad reviews and I’m SO BEHIND.
Villains for Hire Point One #1 – I’ll be picking this up because I’ve been enjoying the Heroes for Hire book lately, but … *stares at title* … I just … I give up.
X-23 #16 – Hooray! This should be good. Marjorie Liu doesn’t let me down and Phil Noto makes me happy because his stuff’s consistently out of this world. X-23 FTW. We end on a high.
A NEW 52 MINI EXPERIMENT
I have a nephew named Alex. He was the cutest thing when he was a tiny little kid—he was like my little buddy and I would take him to the comic shop and buy him comics and packages of Airheads taffy. Naturally, this made me his favorite aunt, a title I still proudly hold. He hated reading, but giving him comics was a great way of tricking him into doing so and making it fun. He loved the Marvel heroes, and on the weekends that he stayed over, we would watch the animated Spider-Man or X-Men shows and bond in this fun little geek world of comics characters.
That nephew is now an angsty teenager, and having long fallen away from comics (there are no comic shops near where he lives), is more interested in girls, basketball, and his PS3 these days. So when his birthday rolled around this past month, I decided I would try a little experiment. I thought there would be no better time to bring him back into the comics fold than now. And my weapon of choice? None other than the New 52.
I was banking on buying him a handful of new titles that I thought he’d like, and went into the comic shop looking for specific books. Unfortunately, we ran out of a number of titles, and since I had put off buying him this stuff until the absolute last minute, I didn’t have the luxury of waiting for re-prints. So I made do with what I found, which was the following: Aquaman #1 (a good, easy read); Detective Comics #1 (dark and violent, right up any teenage boy’s alley); and Justice League #1 (a no-brainer). Since I also had already bought other gifts for him too, I couldn’t afford to pick up too many books. I thought the new Superboy might be a hit for him as well as he loved the Smallville TV series, but the store had sold out. What else would a kid his age like? Blackhawks? No copies left. Red Hood & the Outlaws? Hahaahaa, yeah, NO. I went over to the Marvel shelves instead and picked up Captain America #1. He loved the Cap movie; I was hoping this would get equally good results. Plus, it would provide for some publisher comparison.
He got the issues on his birthday and seemed interested. I didn’t give him any background information. I didn’t tell him about the relaunch; didn’t explain that everything was starting over. I just told him to read.
A couple of weeks later, it was time for follow-up. I texted him and asked if he’d read any of the titles. Response was positive.
I told him to read the last book, Captain America, and that I’d call him to talk about it. When all the issues were read, we had a conversation. He told me that he’d really loved “the Batman one” and that he was dying to see what happened next (the infamous Joker cliffhanger). Aquaman was funny—he liked it, but it confused him a little. I explained some of the inside jokes, and told him that Aquaman had a pretty pathetic reputation—which made him laugh more, and the new understanding added to his enjoyment of the book. Lastly there was Justice League … he was hesitant about this one, but couldn’t explain his confusion or what was off about it. And that’s when I told him about the reboot.
“The Justice League has never met each other prior to this,” I explained.
“Huh?” He had seen the Justice League together before. He’d seen the comics. He knew that Batman and Superman were friends.
“They’re starting everything all over again. This is all brand new. Forget about what you read before—it didn’t happen. They’re starting all over again,” I said.
“WHAT?!? WHY?” Even as someone who hadn’t read a comic in years, he was dumbfounded by the concept.
“To get to YOU!” I answered.
The discussion that followed was pretty interesting. I tried, as rationally and objectively as possible, to explain the theory behind the New 52, and confessed that I had essentially used him as my guinea pig—which didn’t seem to bother him (he got free comics out of the deal, after all). As Marvel had not done anything different to their line of books, I asked him what he thought of Captain America in comparison. He said that he enjoyed it, but he didn’t understand it as much as the other books. Peggy’s funeral in the beginning; Sharon Carter, Baron Zemo—these were characters he didn’t know, and after reading the first issue, he still felt like he was missing a lot. He liked it, but was less inclined to pick up future issues than he was with the DC books.
Kind of fascinating, huh?
The real question now is to see whether or not he enjoyed this enough to go out and buy future issues on his own. But if the choice comes down to a slew of number two books or a copy of Arkham City on the PS3 … well. I’m pretty sure he’s about halfway through the game already.
Experiment status: I’m cataloguing this one a tentative failure.
You’ll recall that I was pretty annoyed a couple of weeks ago by the spoilery story announcement that Diana is apparently a daughter of Zeus. My level of geek rage had spiked pretty high at that little nugget, and I really wasn’t sure how wise it was going to be for me to continue to follow Azzarello’s run on this book. I think, though, that this is just another instance of media and solicitations ruining what may otherwise prove to be a very decent story. When I picked up issue two, fully knowing the reveal that would come, I assumed I would hate everything else about the story as well.
But I didn’t.
Much as it bruises me to admit, this was still a damn great issue, and Azzarello is still weaving a damn good story, despite my reservations. And had DC allowed me to find out the big news as I were reading the issue rather than spoil it for me beforehand out of context, I might have actually been okay.
You could have spared me the rage, guys. My blood pressure—she’s not so good.
Kidding, of course. In all seriousness, the in-story reveal was a million times better than DC’s press attempts for shock and awe, and I’m slowly trying to have a bit more faith in the writer here. He did an excellent job of setting things up before dropping the proverbial bomb at the end of the issue, and it was done in a way that felt organic as opposed to contrived. He even made sure to address the “born of clay” origin, rather than ignoring it and wiping it away completely, as I’d feared would be the case. Given that this is the essence of her character and her story, it’s kind of a big deal.
Wonder Woman fans have, over the years, built up a reputation for being … let’s call it “high-strung.” We’re overly picky. Some of us are traditionalists. All of us demand perfection, and we may take it to extremes. But when you’ve watched a character you love get the short end of the stick over and over and over again; when you’ve watched writers mistreat her, misunderstand her, and/or flat out despise her; when this incredible character, this one-third of the all-mighty “Trinity” gets her panel time cut down in favor of the freaking Green Lantern, you tend to get a little overprotective. We’re fed up.
I think—I hope—Azzarello gets that. And I think—I hope—he’s righting the ship. I’m still on for the ride to wherever he’s steering it.
Also, one more thing—Hippolyta is so totally awesome no matter her hair color.
Also, one more more thing—Cliff Chiang rocks my world.
Was soooooooooooo not going to read this book. I generally don’t care for magic-using characters of any kind, and it’s a point of contention between Fiancé and I. If I’m playing a video game and I can make my own character, I’m going for the badass warrior with weapons galore and insane melee skills—you know, get all up in the action. Fiancé, on the other hand, prefers to don some cheap cloth robe and fire-bomb the heck out of people from a very safe distance.
Opposites attract, I guess.
That said, the idea of a book centering heavily around the use of magic and magical characters didn’t exactly pull me in. Not to mention the fact that I didn’t know who half of these people where. Shade, what? Who’s that? It’s safe to say I’ve never read a single issue of anything bearing John Constantine’s name. Heck, even Zatanna—a character who I bet you’d think I’d be all about—doesn’t draw me in. I tolerate Zatanna, but I’m not a Zatanna fan.
Not yet. With Justice League Dark now on my pull list, I can see this changing very soon.
I wish I could put my finger on just what it is that’s making this book so special to me, but I’m honestly not sure I know. It isn’t one particular thing—it really isn’t blowing my mind in one area. It’s just a combination of things, the ingredients of a comic book that are all done well and come together to give you something worth your appreciation. And it’s all enveloped in this ominous, foreboding overtone that’s just enough to entice and not enough to overbear.
Issue #2 continues to bring together our cast of characters in the lead up to a presumable face-off against the Enchantress; we get a striking introduction to John Constantine, and Milligan brings in Dove and Deadman to aid June Moon from last issue. The title so far has worked almost in a series of vignettes with each character, but it’s interesting because none of them are all that self-contained. Each character piece is weaved into the overall story, and with Madame Xanadu overlooking everyone and pulling the strings, there are some very intriguing elements indeed.
Mikel Janin on art further sets this book apart from the pack. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of his other work, and he has this painted style that’s just lovely. I came into this title fully intent on finding any reason to hate it, but it seems neither creator wants to let me. And that’s so, so exciting and great. The groundwork is being laid, and I can’t wait to see the storm that’s coming ahead. This book is worth a shot.
With this incarnation of Ultimate Spider-Man, Marvel has me subscribed to a Spider-Man title for the first time in my life. And I’m sure I’m not the only one.
There’s a lot to be said for Miles Morales, but I’m certain you’ve already heard it all. In the media storm that ensued following Marvel’s announcement they were killing off Ultimate Peter Parker and putting someone new under the mask, further fueled by Miles’ big reveal, there’s nothing the internets hasn’t already addressed. I have nothing new to add to the conversation; I just want to say that I think this is absolutely awesome, amazing, wonderful, inspiring, and YES, MARVEL—YOU DONE GOOD!
Now, about this issue. I loved the heck out of it. Issue one was good. Issue two was better. Issue three? Still kicking it up, and it is so damn fun to watch all of this … newness … unfold. HEY, DC—THIS IS HOW YOU DO “NEW.”
I … I want to summarize the issue, but I also don’t want to spoil it. In short, Miles is learning more about his new powers. He’s also getting braver and putting them to the test in some very risky situations. He’s also starting his new school and making new friends (or potential villains, I wonder?). It all ends on a big cliffhanger that is just so well done structurally that … well. Good job, Mr. Bendis. I know I like to rag on you from time to time, but I have to tip my hat and give credit where credit is due. You get a gold star.
Also, HOLY COW, SARA PICHELLI. Is this woman freaking amazing or what? I thought her stuff was good before, but I feel like I am actually witnessing her skills grow. Woman is on fire. I absolutely cannot see anyone else drawing this book now. I hope the Bendis/Pichelli run is a very, very long one. I hope it’s on par with Bendis/Bagley, because I’m not sure I could bear to see this book under anyone else’s care. Absolutely wonderful. I can’t stress it enough.
GO BUY ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN RIGHT NOW.
Okay, I think that’s enough. Hopefully the super long length of this post has made up for my lack of posting the last couple of weeks. Either that, or I just bored you to death and drove you further away. Time to imagine that unicorn again.
Have a great weekend, gang.
After only two issues, Nick Spencer’s Infinite Vacation has been much-praised by readers and reviewers alike. I would like to say I didn’t fall prey to all of the hype, but that wouldn’t be entirely accurate. While I had no interest or knowledge of this series at first, a quick sell-out of the first issue caught my attention, and I decided I needed to know what I was missing. I can tell you now that I’m glad I dove in (even despite having The Go-Go’s “Vacation” stuck in my head now).
Any sci-fi or fantasy geek can tell you about the theory of time-travel and dimension-hopping. Nick Spencer takes these theories and incorporates them together to a level where, through technology (cell phones, of course), ordinary people can “vacation” to an “infinite” number of past, future, and potential lives, provided they have the money to buy and sell whichever life they’re currently living. Our protagonist, Mark, takes this to a bit of an extreme in that he chooses to avoid his actual, “real” life as much as possible by vacationing to as many alternate versions of himself as he can—from being President of the U.S. to being a jailed criminal—and yet, still not finding one that makes him happy or quells his boredom. Unfulfilled no matter what life he lives, Mark is feeling pretty devoid of purpose … until, of course, he meets a girl. It’s always about the girl, isn’t it? The trouble for Mark is that this girl is in his real, present day life, and she wants nothing to do with the technological escapism to which Mark is so addicted.
Things get dicey when, due to his incessant vacationing, Mark accidentally gets mixed up in the case of the murder of one of his alternate selves. Before you know it, there are Marks all over the place, and “our” Mark is forced to go into hiding, lest he be caught and punished; i.e., killed. The villain of the story—an incredibly creepy and yet completely believable businessman—is the very same man who invented the software that made Mark’s life vacations possible. He’s your typical dirty, despicable creature, and at the risk of revealing too much, the people he employs may be even worse.
The thing that sucks the reader into this is that Mark is essentially the every guy. It’s easy to relate to or understand his desire for contentment. Despite being in an extraordinary setting, he remains a realistic character. Spencer takes this character and gives him every opportunity and possibility, and yet the results are far from virtuous—pretty much what the average cynic would expect. You WANT to have a sense of hope while reading this—you want to believe in the light at the end of the tunnel, not only for Mark, but for all of us in the real world who are finding ourselves eerily connected to what he’s feeling here—and it’s that hope and connection that’s ultimately going to keep driving me to pick up the next issue. I hope Nick Spencer doesn’t lose me.
One thing I realize may not float everyone’s boat is the artwork. I happen to like it a lot—it’s different, and since the book itself is “different,” it serves its purpose. We’re looking mostly at some trippy colorwork throughout, except for a few pages of photorealism. Those photographic pages are the only ones that repel me; luckily, they’ve been few, and since they’re only used during the intervening scenes that explain the infinite vacation technology, the fact that they come off like a cheap ad works.
Infinite Vacation isn’t a superhero book. It’s not comedy, not horror, and even though a murder takes place, it really isn’t a murder-mystery either. It’s just its own thing. There isn’t much I can compare it to … but it’s worth the temporary escape.
“Vacation, all I ever wanted…”